Science & Technology

SpaceX prepares for rocket launch

SpaceX, America’s largest private aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company, will debut the most powerful launcher in the world for a test flight into earth’s orbit next month.

Tesla, Inc. and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk expected Falcon Heavy to be ready by the end of 2014, but the project proved to be more complex than expected.

According to Musk, Falcon Heavy will be ready for lift off on Feb. 6. If everything goes as planned, it will be capable of generating almost 23,000 kilonewtons, or over 5 million pounds of thrust.

The launcher is essentially three falcon rockets attached together. Falcon Heavy, which weighs over 3 million pounds and is around 70 meters tall was designed to put up to a maximum of 64 tons into earth’s orbit.

In a conference, Musk said, “We were pretty naïve about that, at first, it sounds really easy. Just stick two first stages as strap on boosters. How hard can that be? But then everything changes. All the loads change. Aerodynamics totally change. You’ve tripled the vibration of acoustics.”

The increase in the vibration of acoustics represents a problem to all electronics in the launcher. The shaking can also affect the hardware and humans on board of the rocket.

If the systems in the rocket are unable to handle the waves and stress created during the first stage by the rocket, the main engine will shut down, resulting in a failed mission.

To combat the effect the noise and vibration has on the launcher’s hardware, extra steel structure needs to be added.

As a result, it took three more years for Falcon Heavy to be ready. SpaceX engineers had to redesign and reinforce the central core of the rocket. This was done so the hardware and other electronics could handle the vibration waves and stress.

Musk announced that lift off is expected to occur on Feb. 6 at Kennedy Space Center, one of the 10 NASA field centers and NASA’s main launch center for human spaceflight, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Falcon Heavy will have the ability to lift over 119,000 pounds, twice as much as other rockets, into Earth’s orbit.

This reinforces how Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, which delivered Apollo 11 to the moon in 1973, delivered as much payload.

If the flight proves to be successful and if the Tesla Roadster, one of Musk’s cars, is able to reach Mars’s orbit, it would mean Falcon Heavy is ready to send satellites into space. The rocket has already signed contracts with three telecommunications companies to send satellites into orbit.

In addition, the U.S. Air Force seems interested in using Falcon Heavy.

SpaceX’s plans for Falcon Heavy are not only to send satellites into orbit.

The aerospace manufacturer also plans to take humans to the moon and Mars. Two civilians already put a deposit for the $90 million trip around the moon on Falcon Heavy.

If the flight scheduled on Feb. 6 is successful, space tourism might become more realistic.

Interested viewers can watch the launch on the official SpaceX website.

February 5, 2018

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Juan Carlos Vergara

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